Uniting Behind the Freedom Message

Those of us on the right-hand side of the political spectrum seem to be spending a lot of time arguing with ourselves before we negotiate with our adversaries.

Arguing is OK, and even a good thing, if we do it in a way that moves ideas forward and identifies common paths in the right direction. But in an environment where those who disagree with us, including much of the mainstream media, are looking for ways to make us look either incompetent or evil, indecisiveness just serves up on a silver platter the opportunity for them to label us instead of us defining ourselves and our shared beliefs.

This simply can’t go on. It sends a mixed message of a disunited front that undermines any reasonable chance of winning debates or representing our true numbers. It arms and aims the arrows they use against the weak points in our coalitions. And it takes away our ability to define our own messages and let people see that those messages are neither radical nor dangerous. In fact, our beliefs are what has made this country great to this point.

It’s ironic that as advocates of liberty and students of freedom, we’re not much good at dealing with even slightly different opinions and priorities.

And I say “slightly” because we agree on almost all of what we want in terms of overall outcomes:

  • Free people making free decisions in a reasonably regulated free market environment.
  • A limited government that protects rights rather than trying to grant them.
  • A government that protects us from each other, not ourselves, and respects our right to live our lives as we please so long as we harm no one else.
  • A nation of laws, where all are equal under those laws and nobody is above them.

What I see in my travels around the state are primarily differences in tactics and priorities. Not only is our team not advancing the ball, we can’t quit arguing in the huddle long enough to call the plays.

No, scratch that. We’re not even in the huddle. We’re standing at the line of scrimmage screaming at each other and then calling the play just before the clock runs out.

No, scratch that. They’re calling the plays while we’re arguing about whether to defend against the run or the pass. How about we pick up the ball and run with it instead?

I don’t care if you’re on the right or the left, the tactic of insulting people and questioning their commitment or intelligence won’t win any converts among adversaries or undecideds and just unnecessarily causes division on your own side. It’s at best a waste of time, however cathartic, and more likely destructive to your goals.

So Rule Number 1 is to know your audience. If you are trying to influence people or convince them, know who they are. As for me, I’m trying to convince or confirm for people the value of our founding principles of freedom and free enterprise. But I also have to recognize that, unless I’m preaching to the choir, the majority of people out there simply don’t understand the history of the Constitution and aren’t easily persuadable by a parchment document written in ancient times under circumstances that are often difficult to apply to today’s circumstances.

I’ll put my knowledge of the Constitution, its history and meaning, and my respect for it up against just about anyone; but while the Constitution is always my guide in matters of freedom and government, it’s not always my argument. It’s simply not always the argument that will win these people over because they have no common frame of reference. We have to find the messages that relate to people’s knowledge, values and life experiences, and then show how our founding principles apply to and can further those things that are important to them. That’s not deceptive. It doesn’t ignore basic principles. It simply uses language and messages that apply to people’s lives.

The same could be said about any number of issues out there that haven’t reached a mainstream audience or understanding. They can be your guide, but it’s not always effective for them to be your first argument.

The beauty of our founding was that the people who put together the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution harnessed human nature rather than suppressed it. They recognized the constancy of human nature:

  • that there is good and evil,
  • that people will work harder if they’re allowed to keep what their labor provides, benefiting society as a whole,
  • that incentives and disincentives matter in public policy,
  • that equality means that no one is above the law, not that we punish success or subsidize failure,
  • that desire for power among some is one of the few constants in history,
  • and that channeling that desire can actually strengthen our society rather than tearing it apart.

Those should be our guides. Most everything else is tactics and priorities. We need to hammer those out, but we should unify behind consistent messages that bring people together rather than separate them.

Western Climate Initiative Cap-and-Trade Initiative Imposes Drastic Costs

For Immediate Release: March 23, 2009


Carl Graham, President, Montana Policy Institute (406) 219-0508

Frank Conte, Director of Communications, Beacon Hill Institute: (617) 573-8050


Economic research institute finds deficiencies in WCI’s analysis of impacts from recommendations

Bozeman, Mont.—Specific proposals that several Western states would implement to comply with a proposed cap-and-trade carbon emissions control pact would destroy jobs and erode income, according to a report co-released by an economics institute.

In a thorough review of the claims made by the Western Climate Initiative, the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University identified several flaws made by the seven state consortium, calling into question so-called cost savings ranging between $11.4 billion and $23.5 billion. These flaws render WCI’s projections useless in determining the WCI’s cost to state economies.

The authors of the report write, “Using the Western Climate Initiative’s own projections of increases in fuel costs, BHI finds that the policies will decrease employment, investment, personal income and disposable income. While WCI claims the ‘design is also intended to mitigate economic impacts, including impacts on consumers, income, and employment,’ they fail to quantify the impacts.”

Seven states are full participants in WCI: Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Beacon Hill Institute found that WCI’s policy recommendations “would have substantial negative effects” on the economies of its member states. Under a scenario in which 100 percent of greenhouse gas emission permits would be auctioned off to emitters in a cap-and-trade scheme, BHI determined that the seven states:

* Would lose from 103,931 to 251,674 private sector jobs, while the permit revenue would allow the states to hire 57,269 to 142,241 state employees;

* Would put investment by firms at serious risk by slowing investment in the region by $548 million to $1,448 million;

* Would diminish total personal income, which would fall by $6.35 billion to $18.31 billion per year;

The proposals’ negative economic effects stem from the price and tax increases the states would impose on the energy and transportation sectors. Because a cap on carbon emissions is effectively a tax on energy production that is passed to industry, businesses and consumers, the effect is likely to drive commerce and jobs to other states or countries.

“The cap-and-trade program would increase input costs for producers located within WCI states, placing them at a competitive disadvantage to those outside the areas,” BHI noted. “The pressure would be especially acute for producers that utilize large amounts of energy in the production process, such as manufacturers.”

Beacon Hill found that none of the seven WCI states would escape economic harm should cap-and-trade be imposed. Montana could lose as many as 2,869 jobs and $689 million in personal income by the year 2020.

“This report shines the light on yet another example of political advocacy masquerading as scientific analysis,” said Carl Graham, president of the Montana Policy Institute. “Montanans deserve an honest look at the true long term costs and benefits of climate change measures before special interest groups and their politicians make decisions that will cost us our jobs, empty our pocketbooks, and dictate how we live our lives.”


The complete study is available at